'We can't close': Shelters in Kansas City work to protect less fortunate from COVID-19

Shelter KC summer
city union mission.png
Posted at 10:06 PM, Dec 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-21 23:18:43-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — No matter what, there is always a seat at the table at Shelter KC and City Union Mission in Kansas City, Missouri.

“We are an emergency crisis shelter," Eric Burger, executive director at Shelter KC said. "We deal with people with mental health issues, we deal with people who have addiction issues and so this is now one more thing that we have to make adjustments to."

Shelter KC and City Union Mission tell KSHB 41 News they have adjusted the way folks eat and sleep, to fulfill their purpose of serving the less fortunate in Kansas City.

“We follow all CDC guidelines," Karl Ploeger, the Associate Development Officer at City Union Mission said. "The simple of those is, if you are in our buildings you wear masks. We social distance, we test our guests, if they show any kind of symptoms, and then take appropriate action."

However, both shelters say these necessary adjustments have brought on a new set of challenges, all to shield a community that Demarco Brown knows all too well.

“I started out just like anyone else, [experiencing] homelessness,” Brown said. “I’ve seen a multitude of desertions, depressions and so forth. It’s just imperative that we seek out these persons.”

According to Brown, the efforts of City Union Mission and Shelter KC give those that are less fortunate comfort knowing they too are protected from COVID.

“Now, what we really try to really target is making sure those vulnerable people are vaccinated, but we do not have a vaccination requirement. We do have a testing requirement,” Burger said.

Burger also explained how it hasn't been as easy to help people get booster shots.

“So those that want to get the boosters, it’s not as easy as the first time around because there hasn’t been mass vaccinations for boosters," he said. "That's what we have to help people with, especially those vulnerable, people that have high risks issues. How do we help them? If you don’t have a phone or computer how do you sign up? So there is a challenge there.”

Looking back on previous years, residents were living in close quarters.

Both shelters say they are making changes due to COVID simply to ensure folks are able to gather in faith this holiday season.

“It limits the way we can express that, how many people we can have in rooms, and even gatherings and so we will still make Christmas special for our guests,” Ploeger said.

“We cant ignore the risks, because it’s there and on the other hand we cant allow is to paralyze us,” Burger said.